Train wreck near Knoxville, Tennessee in 1900 : LUSENET : Southern Railway : One Thread

My gg uncle was killed in a train wreck near Knoxville, Tennessee in 1900. Would you have any idea of where I could find information on the accident. Thank you, Randall Peltier

-- Randall R. Peltier (, September 27, 2002


I have sent you 3 e mails..with no answer....In searching., I find wrecks listed..New Market sept 24 1900., and another changed to 1908.,If the person you are seeking info; was in the CSA army..? was this a troop train, or the logging wreck of near date listed? Randy., You will have to answer our questions., or we cannot help..advise..Can you pin-point the crash., was it Knox., or New Market??

-- DON BARKER, CONOVER, nc usa (, September 29, 2002.

Don, Thanks for your help. My gg uncle was Squire Cooper, son of General Joseph A. Cooper, Union Army Tennessee. Squire was killed in a train wreck near Knoxville in 1900. I believe it was in December. Not sure about that. I was born and raised in Knoxville. I moved to Savannah, GA. in the middle 1950s. I really appreciate your help on this matter. Randy Peltier

-- Randall Peltier (, September 30, 2002.

Your best source of information on this subject would be a perusal of Knoxville newspapers of the required date on microfilm, through inter-library loan, if not available where you are, or visit the city library in Knoxville. The newspaper, may even contain a list of casulties, as part of the write up on the wreck.

-- Tom Underwood (, October 02, 2002.

I have been inquiring about my family tree with my grandfather and today, I found out for the first time about the train wreck. He told me that my great-grandfather was a kid who helped clean it up. The wreck was in New Market. I came on-line to get more information about this and saw your questions. Have you found anything out yet? Thanks!

-- S Buck (BUCK1SHANNON@AOL.COM), December 28, 2002.

Randall: I suggest you contact Susie Bullock. She has done a lot of work on the Coopers and has a LOT of information on them. Her e-mail address is " Her phone number is 865-457-7483. Everett

-- Everett Brock (, March 29, 2003.

The train wreck in question was most likely the New Market train wreck of Sept. 24,1904. You should be able to find more information in the Knoxville News Sentinel. They ran a story on it in today's edition.

-- Debbie Chase (, September 21, 2003.

My GG Uncle was the lead engineer on the New Market Train wreck. He was blaimed for the accident, because he survived from what I have been told by my father who was like a Grandson to him. Some reason we were talking about our family history this evening and the subject came up. My father has told me several times that my GG Uncle survived the wreck because he was in the back of the caboose at the time of the wreck checking on something or doing some kind of work while the other 2nd engineer was guiding the train. As you can see I don't know much of the details, but this is what was told to my Great Aunt by my GG Uncle the only few times he ever talked about the tramadic accident. Both of the Engineers had run that section of track, by Graves Station for 20 years since the 1880s and new it like the back of their hands. But, that evening, they had orders to stop at Graves Station for the scheduled switching of another train utilizing that track at that time.

While my GG Uncle was in the caboose he noticed that they had just passed Graves Station and he immediately pulled the brake line to stop, but that is when the two trains collided and just when he noticed that they had by passed the switch. My GG Uncle Lived the rest of his life without his legs and with great emotions of mourning and guilt and confusion for all the lives that were lost that evening. Southern Railway Immediately put the blaim on him and all the Newspaper Media. From what I've been told he was never the same again, and rarely ever talked about it. I guess it was to much for him to bare, thinking about all the lives that were lost that evening. From all I've heard about him, they say he was a good and responsible man, Just in the wrong place at the wrong time. My father told me what my Great Aunt told him, that my GG Uncle lived to be 97 years and upon his death, his last words and action was calling out "All Aboard" and waving people onto a train, for that was what he knew best in life, then he passed away. This is all I know, just by what has been told to me. I just thought I would pass on another side and view of this terrible tragedy that evening. His Name was John W. Caldwell

-- Donovan Edwards (, September 22, 2003.

My son Donovan has told the basic gist of the story; I will just correct a few things.The conductor of the east bound train was my great grandfather, William Benton Caldwell. At the time of the wrech grandad (this is what we called him)had been with Southern and its predecessor for almost 25 years. Evidently Mr. Parrot, the engineer of grandad's train, had not read the train orders that morning. Anyway, he had made this run to Asheville, N.C. many times over the previous fifteen years. But this one time, as fate would have it, the orders were just slightly different: thet were to pull onto the side track at Graves Station and wait for the west bound train to Knoxville to pass. As Donovan said when grandad saw them rush past the switching at Graves, he said later it was as if he were staring death in the face. He immediately realized that Parrot had not read his orders so grandad pulled his emertgency brake, but it wasd too late. Just mpoments later the two trains met head-on. Grasndad took the blame because Mr. Parrot had a family and was about to retire. Had Mr. Parrot been blamed his family would loose his pension and benefits. They had been close friends and live only a few blocks from each other at Fourth Avenue and Gill Avenue, the now restored Victorian neighborhood. If I can be of further help, feel free to contact me. Sincerely , Doc Edwards

-- David (Doc) Edwards (, March 06, 2004.

Very interested in the discussions. There was at least two ballads written about the New Market wreck. One may have been written by one Josia Adams and is reminiscent of a hymn. The details were published in a book "Scalded to Death by the Steam" by Katie Letcher Lyle ISBN 0-491-03354-0 and is currently available. The book also shows pictures of the wreck and comments on the incident. The wreck not only had a bad death toll but was very destructive in respect of the stock - both boilers exploded after the collision. Train 12 was eastbound freight with engine 1051 a Baldwin 4-6-0 with Dick Parrott of Knoxville at the throttle. Conductor Murphy was in charge of the train. Train 15 was westbound local passenger hauled by 4-4-0 #1838. Engineer Bill Kane and coloured fireman Jim Mills were in the cab. Bill Caldwell was the conductor in charge of the train. Normal meeting point was at Hodges but only if the trains were on time. Both were late and the meet was moved east to New Market. The practice was for the dispatcher to anull the orders and issue new. The orders had to be issued to both crews (conductor and engineer)to move the meet. The weakness was that with no fixed signals reliance was placed on the train crews to remember the orders. It was the rule that the conductor had to read the orders to the flagman and the engineer to the fireman. In this way at least four people knew were the meet was. Sometimes this was not done and a safety margin let slip. The presence of the second engineer is new. If the second engineer was the rostered man then he was responsible for the head end. Certainly, if he was, he had no business in the train and no duty calls for him being there. Kane may have been a trainee or spare man. Often when a second man was present a rostered crew member would take the opportunity to "ride the cushions" in the passenger cars. Steam locomotives are rough riders. It begs the question that to whom were the orders given and if Kane was not the rostered man was he aware of the change in the orders. If he was "learning the road" did he know where he was? Certainly a copy of the orders were found on Kane's body but had he read them.

-- Ray State (, April 01, 2004.

I happen to have an original 1904 newspaper that has this train wreck as the front page story. It includes a list of known dead, and many details of the accident. If anyone may be interested, I can give what info I have, or possibly let it go for a price. The story claims that 54 people were killed, with 120 more injured, several of whom will probably die.

-- John P. Burch (, July 23, 2004.

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